Antagonism in international politics, more often than not, has potential to lead the things towards positive development. Recent Russian intervention in Syria is a prime example in this regard. Unfortunately, unipolarity has worsened the state of affairs in a vile and offensive manner. Along with scientific developments, technological advancements, economic growth and educational betterment, the menace of terrorism and extremism is running parallel. So, relatively, there is no progress in terms of achievement of a secure and civilized world owing to lack of sustainable international peace and security.

Although unipolarity has adversely affected different parts of the world i.e. Afghanistan (South Asia) and Libya (Africa) etc, its severest demonstration can be seen across the Middle East. Today, Middle East is virtually on the verge of disintegration the seeds of which were sown at the time of American invasion of Iraq. USA (which spearheaded the unipolar world) invaded Iraq on the ground of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which were, though, never found there. Then, the domestic power structure in Iraq was unilaterally changed, depriving a major faction of the Iraqi society thus further widening the sectarian rifts. This deprivation, in turn, led to resentment, violence and ultimately chaos; the country became a host to terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda that exploited this situation in its favour. The ensuing civil war resulted in the rise of the self-styled Islamic State (IS).

Since, the sectarian cleavages became fundamental to nourishment of IS turning it into a sanctuary for the deprived faction as well as criminals and hardened terrorists, therefore, the monster organization started spreading its tentacles to different regions of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. It propagated an orthodox set of beliefs accompanied by its barbaric and inhumane acts for its implementation. Moreover, IS proclaimed caliphate in the region — a novel version among terrorist outfits. So, it seemed appealing to extremists and terrorists around the world and numerous foreign volunteers, mostly from Muslim countries burning in the inferno of sectarianism, started to join IS. Even many Europeans reportedly joined the organization. Subsequently, IS gained a reasonable momentum and became a major militia in the Middle East, having the power to challenge the governments across the region.

On the other hand, the United States, with its designs to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, became so obdurate that it did raise a militia, known as Free Syrian Army, to confront Assad. The US provided these ‘rebels’ with training, weapons and other assistance. However, all the manoeuvres and tactics used by the Obama administration proved counterproductive as they ended up in strengthening the IS. Many of the Free Syrian Army fighters joined the IS and brought with them the US-provided advanced weapons.

The Islamic State, by then, had overshadowed other militias in the region and the US was well aware of this. By the time, due to ineffectual US policies, the IS became so strong that it captured swathes of land both in Iraq and Syria and established a de facto state. Thenceforth, the IS has become a perilous threat to neighbouring states like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and South Asian states like Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as some north African states. In short, the Islamic State has emerged as the most potent terrorist organization-cum-state as it poses an imminent security threat to Muslim states in particular and whole of the world in general — Paris attacks of November 2015 is a blatant example in this regard. So, in the light of these facts, it can be clearly seen as to how US policies became instrumental in the emergence and establishment of IS.

Another important aspect of the transmutation of the Middle East is the rising Kurdish exertion. Although Kurds, having extensive US military and economic support at their back, proved to be a great resistance against the Islamic State, their quest for an independent state, amidst this ongoing crisis, is likely to give birth to yet another crisis in this already fragile region. Kurds are basically seeking a reinforcement — independent state — as a reward for their confrontation with the IS. They are projecting their fight in a manner as if they are doing something beyond their obligation and they were not bound to do so. In reality, Kurds’ combat against the IS was a self-defence rather than any favour to Iraq or any other Middle Eastern state. Had the Kurds not resisted the IS, their decade-long struggle for a separate identity would have been obliterated and lost into blazes of extremism. So, Kurds’ claim of independent state at the cost of their fight against the IS is really absurd and is, indeed, an exploitation of fragile security environment of the region.

Interestingly, the US too doesn’t seem interested in countering this narrative of the Kurds. In fact, it has managed to patronize the Kurds as another territory-claimant in the region. The ‘superpower’ seems completely oblivious to this simple reality that a united Iraq is a stable Iraq and a stable Iraq is vital for the stability of the whole Middle East.

MIDDLE EAST & ANTAGONISM IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS 1In the light of the abovementioned facts, the looming demise of the Middle East may be fairly attributed to the long-ruling unipolarity. From invasion of Iraq to the nurturing of the Free Syrian Army, from arming the so-called moderate rebels to the support of Kurds, how US policies orchestrated the demise of the Middle East. It evidently depicts how the US has been inapprehensive about the consequences of its policies. Moreover, it evinces the lack of conscience and responsibility in terms of leadership role which the US has been assuming for itself since decades. This all has indeed come to happen due to an absence of a potential antagonist which would act like a watch over international affairs and keep on posing an appetite to exploit any shortcoming caused by the other.

Antagonism leaves a very short room for rivals to manoeuvre and manipulate, therefore, they have to resort to constructive and positive policies to gain popular support. In the case of the Middle East, since American invasion of Iraq, some regional players have been playing specific-opposition role i.e. Turkey only opposes US policy about Kurds, but there is no potential antagonist which could resist the American policy toward Middle East.

Nonetheless, Russia’s intervention into Syria is a remarkable development regarding the Middle East crisis as it could be a watershed moment in efforts to make the prevailing situation better. That is not to say that Russia is going to play some heroic role in this episode, after all, it is geopolitics and everyone is playing for its own interests. However, a probability of political and peaceful resolution has increased reasonably because this intervention is a kind of deterrence against the US thus preventing it to make any unilateral, irresponsible and aggressive move. There will be a broader involvement with a number of states having their stakes in Middle East rather than one bloc. Consequently, mutual resolution will be inevitable which would address apprehensions of almost every state involved in the conflict. Even a win-win-situation may be achieved; though everyone will have to make some compromises in order to reach such a situation. Above all, there is all likelihood of extinction — or at least debility — of ISIS as it will be a common target before all the states. As a piece of evidence, it can be seen that Russian intervention has started paying off as UK, France and Germany are seeking to renew their policies regarding Syria and are abandoning their long-held extreme position. Moreover, talks are being held in Vienna where involved are all the states concerned in the Middle East crisis. Hence, it may be justly concluded that antagonism plays a constructive and significant role in international politics as far as current state of affairs is concerned.

The writer is a law graduate. He can be contacted at: arslanahmad.gondal@gmail.com

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